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In the field of mosquito control in Topsfield MA research scientists have far too often studied to kill, rather than to understand. Yet, by peering into the realm of mosquito biology, recent research has found an amorous side to the world’s deadliest animal and number one pest.
For those unfamiliar with the mosquito life cycle, their adult life is dominated by the hunt for both food and a mate. Male mosquitoes, after they full mature, locate females by listening for the sounds of their wings. Once the female has found a worthy male the two mate, perpetuating the life cycle of the mosquito.
That, however, doesn’t sound very romantic.
Studies conducted by Cornell University’s Department of Entomology have, however, given new insight into mosquito mating behavior. Cornell’s recent research on Aedes aegypti, the mosquitoes responsible for spreading Dengue and Yellow Fever, has found that females are listening for lovers. Their findings have also dispelled a few former assumptions about the behavior of A.aegyptimosquitoes: that females are a deaf, passive participant in the mating ritual and that males cannot hear frequencies that are above 1,000 hertz.
It turns out that, when looking for the right mate, female A. aegypti mosquitoes will engage potential mates in a duet. Both the male and female will respond to one another’s sound effects in the close proximity of courtship. Though most human’s know the mosquito’s buzz, or flight tone, as the whining prelude to a mosquito bite, it plays a large role in the sexual selection of A. aegypti mosquitoes.
The operatic duet is a willing female’s challenge for males, a test of their physiological fitness. The buzzing sound many people know, and hate, actually comes from the beating of a mosquitoes wings and the sympathetic vibration of the thorax. Females buzz at a frequency of 400 hertz (close to middle C note). Males, since they are smaller in size, hum in flight at the higher frequency of 600 hertz and aim to match the female’s overtone during the mating process.Once a love connection is made between a couple, the two will adjust their wing speeds to create a harmonic at about 1,200 hertz.
Researchers have called this musical union a “love song,” as a successful duet is the prelude to the couple’s copulation. Ah, that’s amore.
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